Maybe it’s just me, but the Google I/O 2015 keynote was really boring.
Maybe I’m just spoiled from other shows, like when Microsoft showed off HoloLens or, heck, when Google had dudes skydiving into its I/O conference just a few years ago. Sure, there were a few neat announcements that will eventually bear more interesting fruit, like whatever Android M ends up becoming (Marshmallow?) when it’s released to the public, and Google Now on Tap, but dang that was rough to sit through.
Google I/O started out with Android Pay which itself is so mindbogglingly similar to Apple Pay it’s almost hilarious. No surprise there, because we knew it was coming, and it appears to function similarly to what Apple offers. For a company so bent on innovation with things like Project Loon and self-driving cars, you’d think it could have come up with a more original name. And worse, it’s really just the leftovers of Softcard, which was formed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, and it doesn’t even sound as full-featured as Samsung Pay, which works with NFC and magnetic-based checkout machines.
Then we got into Android Wear and that was a snoozefest, too. Google covered everything that was in the last major update, which is already available to end users, but announced that Foursquare and Uber are coming. Yawn. Offline Google Maps seemed to get a huge applause from the crowd, except I’ve been using that for years already. Want to know how? Here’s Google’s guide, you can do it right now — just hang tight for newer features like local search and offline voice navigation. Those are cool, sure, but also already available from Nokia HERE maps.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t want the fake use-case demos that Samsung puts on during its shows, or the chorus of children singing like LG’s events, I just wanted something that felt fresh and new, that really punched me in my tech-loving gut.
I know that I shouldn’t have expected hardware. The Nexus 6 was introduced last October with Android Lollipop, so it’s OK that we didn’t get to see any of that here, but tease the next version of Google Glass, or maybe introduce us to some new Android Wear hardware. Show me something new, don’t just tell me about what’s coming whenever my carrier finally issues an update to my smartphone, which probably won’t be until a year from now. (Seriously — devices are still getting Android Lollipop, some of this stuff is going to take a while.)
Worse, as I mentioned earlier, Google has such incredible things going on that it didn’t discuss. Where was our update on Project Ara, the modular smartphone project? Or what about Project Fi, Google’s wireless service? Or what about Google Glass, which was brought in house earlier this year? Chrome OS is becoming more and more popular in classrooms, Google has said, yet we didn’t get any update on what’s happening on that front, or how Google’s status on bringing new Android apps to the platform is coming along.
I don’t mean to be cantankerous about the whole thing. Any news from Google is usually good news, and I did really appreciate the entire revamp of Google Photos, which I use daily. And I’m loving what Android offers and where it’s going. I just think Google could have spiced things up here and there with a few additions to the presentation. Like showing a new tablet “coming soon” with USB Type-C, for example, demoing a new Android Wear smartwatch from one of the many OEMs building those devices, or an example of how easy it is to use Android Pay.
Maybe I just need a nap. Thankfully, after that keynote, my mind is ready.